Saturday, November 2, 2013

11-03-2013 -- 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 3, 2013 - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The gospel story of Zacchaeus is delightful because it’s so unexpected, it’s a real treat, it’s refreshing and life-giving.

We’ve all had those types of unexpected experiences happen to us.  They have the power to change our lives forever.

Maybe you were introduced to the friend of a friend and the two of you hit it off splendidly.  Unexpectedly, a new friendship was born. 

Or maybe, out of the blue, you received a social media message from a long lost friend and suddenly, unexpectedly that special friendship was rekindled.

Or maybe you wanted to go to this school or get that job, but then for some reason things didn’t go your way and you ended up somewhere you hadn’t planned.  And, to your surprise, it turned out to be the best thing for you.

Nearly all the best things that have come to me in my life have been unexpected, unplanned, a surprise.

But almost every time, the unexpected turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me.

Zacchaeus simply wanted to see Jesus.  He was a short, little man.  So he climbed a tree so that he could see better.

But then, the unexpected happened.  He hadn’t expected Jesus to call him by his name.  He certainly hadn’t expected Jesus to invite himself for dinner at his house.

Zacchaeus could have resisted, but we’re told he responded with joy.

Things weren’t unfolding the way he had planned.  He could have freaked out.  He could even have said no or run away out of embarrassment.  But he didn’t.

Why?  Because Zacchaeus was lost.  He was hungering for something because he climbed that tree. 

Zaccaeus needed this encounter with Jesus.
Zacchaeus needed this unexpected change in his life.
And this unexpected encounter with Jesus saved him.

The story of Zacchaeus never fails to bring a smile.  He went up that tree a tax collector and came down a disciple.

His joyful change of heart resulted in a joyful change of life, and a willingness to redress the wrong he had done.

Behold Lord, half my possessions I shall give to the poor.
And if I have wronged anyone, I will repay it fourfold.

Zacchaeus responded so generously and his life was forever changed.  He was lost. 

But Jesus sought him and now he’s saved.

Jesus looks out at you and me and says,
“Today I must stay at your house.”

The Lord comes to us in unexpected ways all the time.

If we’d simply pay attention, respond with joy and accept Jesus’ invitation, we would be changed too.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis has a wonderful way of teaching us the lesson of Zacchaeus.

He has a pastoral, gentle, encouraging, heartwarming way of bringing about the unexpected.

He’s a real treat.  He is so Christ-like.
He sets an example for us to follow. 

He’s said no to the red Prada shoes.  He’s not moving into the papal palace.  He’s challenged us to care for the poor.

He’s called us to preach the gospel by our actions.  He drives an old car.  He makes his own phone calls.  He’s called us to be more accepting of those who are different from us.

His warm disarming smile has brought people closer to Jesus.
He is unexpected and spirit-filled.

Unexpected things happed to us.  If we are open to receive the grace the Lord wants to give us, those things can be life-giving, life-changing. 

Those things can bring us great joy.  Those things can save us.

Are we ready to respond to Jesus’ unexpected invitation to come to our house?

Zacchaeus, come down from that tree!


  1. As always, great! Ray

  2. Thank you, Father Rusty, for this wonderful homily. We so often resist the love, grace, and joy that the Lord longs to bring into our lives ... but when we finally embrace the joy of Christ's surprises, you are right, it can be life-altering!!

  3. Reminds me of grade school when the teacher calls out a student's name to answer a question. The student's reaction is either to cower and be silent or grit one's teeth and think... "Here we go!".

    Zacchaeus made that "leap" of faith and everything was just fine.